A recent report published by a political scientist at Boston University, found that the Department of Defense is the worlds “single largest producer of greenhouse gases”. America’s military alone emits around 153 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually. In terms of emissions, this would make the U.S. military equal to the Netherlands, and larger than many countries like Portugal and Sweden – it would rank 55th in the world.
The ‘War on Terror’ Has Terrorized Our Climate: Since 9/11, America’s war machine ramped up to unprecedentedly high levels:
- The US military has been responsible for 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases between 2001 and 2017.
- Emissions from “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria accounted for more than 400 million metric tons of CO2.
- The War on Terror alone is responsible for 35% of all U.S. emissions in the 21st century.
The Climate is Hitting Back: The Pentagon has already begun to feel the negative impacts of wreaking such havoc on the environment, as massive flooding and extreme weather events like Hurricane Michael have cost the administration billions in repairs for military bases. Droughts, wildfires, desertification and rising sea levels are already interfering in the way the Pentagon operates in terms of training, construction, and deployment. In the Arctic, the melting of glaciers is opening up previously closed sea routes and creating increased geopolitical competition and conflict over the waters and their natural resources. Climate change is severely undermining our military readiness, but our Department of Defense is only making it worse.
The U.S. Response? In 2018, military spending in the U.S. reached an all-time high since 2010, with a 4.6% annual increase that added up to $649 billion. Rather than reducing our emissions and developing more fuel-efficient technologies, thus enabling our military to better protect the U.S. from future disasters, White House officials are attempting to further increase military spending for fiscal 2020.
Why This Matters: The Navy under the Obama Administration and the leadership of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus worked hard to create a steady supply of biofuels for Navy jets, but there needs to be a huge leap in that supply in order to replace fossil fuels, of which jet fuel is the largest category. Military installations have great potential to develop solar power too. There is also money to be saved – the Pentagon is the largest single purchaser of fossil fuels in the world – switching to renewable fuels will save the Pentagon big bucks. But what is needed is a commitment to reduce the military’s greenhouse gas emissions and a deadline for the Defense Department to reach carbon neutrality. This is a key part of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Joe Biden’s climate plans.